Posted by: atowhee | May 25, 2016


Officially it’s still spring but for the birds it’s mid-season, nesting and rearing young…and it’s summery despite the cool temps hereabouts.  I saw one surprising winter holdover today…a breeding plumage male Shoveler.  Why is he still here…alone?SHOV IN MAY (1280x960)There was a lone male Cinnamon Teal as well, not a bird that is regular at the sewer ponds in my limited experience.  Behind him a family of Mallards.CINTE PLUS3 (1280x960)And there were two families of goslings, total around a dozen: GOOSES FAMILYThe membership of the Drake Fraternity was present.  Many male Mallards and Wood Ducks.  In both species the female does all the nesting work…so the males get the summer off to preen and feed.

Overhead was an aerial skirmish.  Kestrel diving at a Red-tail soaring past.  With the usual results, Red-tail kept moving and the Kestrel felt like he’d accomplished something.


Over at the pocket marsh adjacent to the sewer ponds there was a lower altitude series of aerial chases.  One male Yellowthroat circled after another.  You would dizzy trying to follow their flights, around and around they went.  Meanwhile there was a female Yellowthroat going about her business down in the reed grass, ignoring the testosterone-driven behavior.

Over along the fence line action was frantic. Swallow come, swallow go, swallow into box and out again.  Swoop, swerve, swallow, sputter, sit, swoop and swirl…again. TS LINETS AGAIN  TS PRFECT TS TO FRNTAnd then I spotted this lone Violet-green among his cousins.  Only one, I wonder? VG ON WIRE (1280x960)

BERRY BLOOMS (1280x960)This berry thicket was thick with bees or at least two kinds.  Here’s one of the larger ones, nestled down in the nectar bowl.ROSE-BEE (1280x960)This nearby manroot facade had far fewer bees in attendance. MANROOT BLOOMS (1280x960)A rose is a rose is a photo opp. ROSE (1280x960)

Yamhill Sewage Ponds (restricted access), Yamhill, Oregon, US
May 25, 2016 11:00 AM – 11:45 AM.  27 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  20     including a dozen goslings
Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)  15
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  X     including 5 ducklings
Cinnamon Teal (Anas cyanoptera)  1
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)  1
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  1
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  1
Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius)  1
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  X
Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna)  1
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  1
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  1
Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  1
Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)  50
Violet-green Swallow (Tachycineta thalassina)  1
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)  1
Bewick’s Wren (Thryomanes bewickii)  1
Swainson’s Thrush (Catharus ustulatus)  1
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  3
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)  3
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  2
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  1
Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana)  1
Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus)  6
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  X
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  1

Posted by: atowhee | May 24, 2016


I will be teaching a three-session class on Yamhill birds, supplemented with three field trips to different locations.   Here’s the link if you know anybody interested, new to birding or new to our area.

It’s sponsored by McMinnville Park and Rec.  All you need are binocs. It begins in late June.

Posted by: atowhee | May 22, 2016


For the second straight day our Great Gray Owl field trips here at the Mountain Bird Festival in Ashland have been attended not just by eager birders (including two from Yorkshire in Merrie Olde) but also by the owls themselves.  This morning we drove first to Two Pine Meadow where a GGO has been performing the previous two mornings,  Beautiful singing Western Tanager…then we move south toward Hoxie Meadow…there we got MacGillvray’s, Yellow-rumped and Hermit Warbler…nest-building Robin…no owl.  Back to Two Pine…all quiet.  So we then headed back north along Keno Access Road toward the forest re-growth area just over a mile southeast of Dead Indian Memorial.  Might as well look for Green-tailed Towhee, right?  As we reach the pull-off spot we notice the trailing cars are missing.  No answer on the handy-talky.  Back we go hoping they haven’t stopped for another Flicker.

Clever birders.  One sharp-eyed lady had spotted this over-sized pine cone in a dead snag.  The cars stopped stopped…both adult Great Gray Owls in the local pair were perched in clear view east of the road among the twenty-foot ponderosas.  The female soon flew into the forest but the male (probably) with the same brownish plumage of the owl seen previous days remained, and continue hunting from a series of perches.  A full serving of Great Gray Owl was devoured by all birders including two birding friends newly arrived on the scene from Rocky Point:GGOL1 GGOL2 GGOL3 GGOL4 GGOL5 GGOL6 GGOL7 GGOL8Two adults hunting together this time of year means…possibly their nest has already failed…possibly the cool spring has caused them to postpone egg-laying so far…perhaps nesting its yet to come?  Normally the female would not leave an active nest sight until the nestlings become fledglings.

After the hunting male also departed into the deep forest we went back to the stump forest and found our Green-tailed songster and even heard hi soft, lilting melody, a serenade to a cold spring morning.GTT SINGS2 (1280x960) GTT FRONT (1280x960) GTT LOOKS (1280x960) GTT SINGS (1280x960)  GTT SINGS3 (1280x960) GTT STUMPD (1280x960)Other birds we found included Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, here at the northern extent of its western range…Orange-crowned Warbler, battling Black-headed Grosbeaks, Caspian Tern on Howard Prairie Reservoir, Yellow Warbler, Violet-green Swallows, Spotted Sandpiper.  And a pair of cranes, one resting in the tall grass of Howard Prairie: CRANE (1280x960)

Bumper sticker should read: bumble loves vetch:BUMBLR VETCH

Afternoon storms come to the southern Oregon mountains. MTN CLOWDS MTN ROWD

The Mountain Bird Festival is held in late May each year as a fund-raiser for and by Klamath Bird Observatory, the only independent avian population research organization in Oregon.

Posted by: atowhee | May 21, 2016


You might guess I was leading a Great Gray Owl trip this morning for the Klamath Bird Observatory’s Mountain Bird Festival.  So we led two groups of birders to Keno Access Road by 840AM.  And here is the view that greeted us.dawn chillIt was as cold as this photo looks.

Then we approached Two Pine Meadow.  A hunting Great Gray Owl lifted off from the ground flew across the road and into the dense forest on the west side.  Was that it?  Only some of the birders in the first three cars even got a glimpse of the bird.  But I noticed he was not carrying prey n his mouth so he would continue to hunt.  We waited silently beside our cars on the road.  No traffic, until a few minutes later the owl came low back across the road and coasted across the meadow.  Because of their minimal wing-load these big owls with five-foot wings fly slowly.  Everybody got a good look, then it landed in a pine on the meadow’s edge forty yards away and faced us for some dozens of seconds.  Breath was held, some pictures taken, exclamations proclaimed, then he slipped silently off the branch and turned swiftly away and eastward into the forest.  Later re-visits to the meadow brought no more views.  Thanks for the brief visit, Mr. GGO.  GGO GLARES (960x1280)This photo was taken in the same area on Friday, quite likely the same owl.

After that beginning the day began to warm, the birds began to appear.  Mountain Chickadees and Tree Swallows were two species we saw copulating.  More birds are on the way.  An area I now think of as Chipping Stumps was alive with chippies, Juncos, a Green-tailed Towhee and Townsend’s Solitaire.

chsp front (1280x960) chsparo (1280x960) TOSO FROM BHNDThe trip ended mid-afternoon with good views of Lazuli Bunting:LAZ1 (1280x960) LAZ2 (1280x960)This marmot was trying to hide, but finally scurried into a culvert.  Can I call his exit “marmotion?” MRMT (1280x960) TS BRITE (1280x960) TS STARE (1280x960) TS TILTD (1280x960)Tree Swallow above, Vesper Sparrow below.  Today we heard some sing their lilting melody.  By summer they will be quiet and hiding in the meadows where they nest on the ground. VESP ROKS2 (1280x960)Other birds we put onto our day list included: five Sandhill Cranes, Wilson’s, Yellow, Nashville and Orange-crowned Warblers, Pileated (heard), Western Meadowlark, Hermit Thrush, and an Olive-sided Flycatcher in the oaks along lower Shale City Road.  no doubt he retreated downslope from the snow-covered conifers in order to find food.

Posted by: atowhee | May 20, 2016


Now we know how the red gets to the feathers.

Posted by: atowhee | May 20, 2016


I missed the kitchen sink but ran into just about everything else while scouting the Jackson County Cascades for this weekend’s Mountain Bird Festival out of Ashland.  Snow in May?  Check.  Rain? Check. Cold?  Check.  Fog?  Check. Wildflowers?  Abundance and various. Great Gray Owl?  Check.  Two species of bluebird?  Check.  A plethora of Chipping Sparrows, chipping in the snowfall?  Check. Townsend’s Solitaire pretending to be a ghost?  Check. Christmas in May?  What else?


THE OWLGGO IN SNOW (1280x960) GGO IN SNOW2 (1280x960) GGO IN SNOW3 (960x1280) GGO LOOKS DOWN (1280x960) This is not the owl limbering its wing, but the wing being blown away from the body by the blizzard. GGO WING BLOW (1280x960) GGO WING BLOW2 (1280x960)The owl hours after the storm passed by: ggo pm (1280x960)



Keno Access Road, Jackson, Oregon, US
May 20, 2016.  13 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  X
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  1
Great Gray Owl (Strix nebulosa)  1     Two Pine Meadow
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  X
Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri)  2
House Wren (Troglodytes aedon)  1
Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides)  2
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  X
Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina)  40
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)  12
Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana)  1
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  6
Purple Finch (Haemorhous purpureus)  1

Howard Prairie Lake, Jackson, Oregon, US
May 20, 2016.  17 species

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  100
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  2
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  1
Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis)  1
Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)  4
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  1
Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri)  X
Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)  X
Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana)  2
Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides)  2
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  X
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata)  X
Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina)  X
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)  X
Vesper Sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus)  X
Brewer’s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus)  X

Posted by: atowhee | May 18, 2016


“…And the eagle flies with the dove
And if you can’t be with the one you love, honey
Love the one you’re with
You gotta love the one you’re with
You gotta love the one you’re with
You gotta love the one you’re with…”
–Stephen Stills

The Eurasian Starling has been resident here in the U.S. for 125 years.  There are many humans in this country whose ancestors came after 1891.  So maybe we should recognize their stamina, hard-work, independence of welfare (sure they’ll take any hand-out they can get, so do our ‘natives’), fecundity, AND, especially their tunefulness.  For the first time I am living where Starlings are daily in my garden, at my feeders, perched on the roof talking to me as I work outside.  Not since the European Robins in my backyard in London have I lived next a bird so interested in what I do and so willing to comment, joyfully or even sarcastically…I can’t always tell. EUST ON BNCH (1280x960)The Starling is a singer both original and a mimic.  A sweet warble unique, chuckles, wolf-whistles, the call of the Jackdaw which is either inherent or passed down through dozens of generations from the Old Country where “Jacks” are often heard over Stonehenge or the local Norman church tower, a whirring sound like a small propeller turning, soft musical mumbles, whooooo, a good imitation of California Quail,  a phoney sounding Red-tail Hawk call that is not as good as Steller’s Jays often manage. That’s the start of my catalog.  There’ll likely be many more sounds.EUST-BNCH2EUST LAUNCHFew birds will share a suet feeder–parent and fledglings sometimes, gangs of Bushtits, that about covers it in my experience…and now, Starlings.  That’s taking gregariousness to a pretty high level.  Clearly they find my garden a suet-able place to dine. ST2-SUET (1280x960) ST-SUET (1280x960)Take-off: ST-SUET2 (1280x960)We have at least one pair nesting on our property, others come from the ‘hood to feed and then go home.

With climate change I think we better learn to love the ones we’re with…as it’s not likely all our current species will make it past that extinction void we living creatures now all must face.  I know they will take nests from smaller cavity-nesters.  Our ancestors brought Starlings here so now it’s our job to provide more nest sites for the other species they may bully.  Not a single Starling ever begged to be brought to America but they certainly have taken to the American way of life, no?


We have just completed a twelve-month run of record-hot months on the planet.

Posted by: atowhee | May 16, 2016


For the first time this month I got the chance to join Paul Sullivan’s Monday morning walk in Rotary Park.  One of the first birds we saw was Red-breasted Nuthatch feeding on the ground near the parking lot.rbn-a (1280x960) rbn-b (1280x960) rbn-c (1280x960) rbn-d (1280x960) rbn-e (1280x960) rbn-f (1280x960) rbn-g (1280x960) rbn-h (1280x960) rbn-j (1280x960) rbn-k (1280x960) rbn-m (1280x960) rbn-n (1280x960)One of the Spotted Towhees we heard in the underbrush. spto perchd (1280x960)The Black-headed Grosbeaks were singing all around us, both genders do sing.  And all we managed to see well were female grosbeaks:BHG-FEML (1280x960) BHG-FEML3 (1280x960) BHG-FEML4 (1280x960) BHG-FEML5 (1280x960)We saw two Downys together, including a youngster following around an adult while foraging on tree trunks. The juvenile appeared quite ruddy on its chest.DOWO--ADULTWe saw adult Robins carrying food to this nest near the start of the trail, the new nest apparently built atop last year’s.Amro nest (1280x960)

McMinnville Rotary Park (Tice Park), Yamhill, Oregon, US
May 16, 2016 8:30 AM – 9:40 AM.  [I could not stay for entire walk which lasts most of the morning.]  14 species

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  X
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  X
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)  2
Hutton’s Vireo (Vireo huttoni)  1
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis)  2
Bewick’s Wren (Thryomanes bewickii)  1
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  16
Orange-crowned Warbler (Oreothlypis celata)  1
Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina)  1
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  10
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  3
Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana)  1
Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus)  8
Purple Finch (Haemorhous purpureus)  X

Posted by: atowhee | May 15, 2016


Nora the dog and I checked out the action at deer Creek County Park here in Yamhill County.  It was mid-day and the rain had abated for the time being.  It was calm and about 60 degrees under a clouded sky.  I saw or heard several birds for the first time this year in Yamhill County.  Two flycatchers: a Wood-Pewee in his accustomed spot at the top of a dead tree, two skulking Pac-slopes playing tag along the creek bank under a dense canopy of over-hanging limbs and leaves.  Warblers: a Common Yellowthroat and a Yellow Warbler.  Making a warning sound like a drop of water falling into a metal barrel: Swainson’s Thrushes.  And my first little cluster of Cedar Waxwings, initially in treetops then whirling off chaotically toward the east.cewa x4 (1280x960)This Chipping Sparrow was along the roadside and I took the shots through the windshield so I wouldn’t spook the bird. CHSP1 (2) (1280x960) CHSP2 (1280x960) CHSP3 (1280x960)This Pacific-slope Flycatcher was deep in the creekside thicket and was focused on his enemy, another PS Flycatcher just upstream.PAC-SLPE (1280x960)This Yellowthroat at Deer Creek park came out to scold us. CY SCOLDS CY SCOLDS2 CY UPPThe park is a pair of habitats: creekside riparian and wet meadow where these lupine grow.  The forest is dominated by ash trees.  The plant growth is verdant and lush, every inch of ground covered by some green being.  Blooming thimbleberries are as tall a man.  Cow parsnips as tall as basketball player support flower clusters a foot in diameter. LUPINEAbove is an uncommon species of lupine.  Here’s what the park’s webpage says about it: ” In 1993 Biology professor Kareen Sturgeon and her botany students at Linfield College discovered a small colony of a rare, dry-prairie species Lupinus sulphureus kincaidii (Kincaid’s lupine) in the upland portion of the prairie. Kincaid’s lupine is a relict species from the ice age endemic to the Willamette Valley that serves as the host plant for the rare Fender’s blue butterfly. In the developed area of the park, the ash grove was allowed to go unmowed and has since awed park visitors with a display of camas (a staple food for native peoples) and other wildflowers. A group of community members formed Friends of Deer Creek Park, which continues to work toward the integration of recreation, ecological restoration, and education objectives in the park.”

This plant’s flowers can range from blue to white as the ones above.

P2710241 (1280x960)Below: Pacific ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus): P2710242 (1280x960) A rose overhanging the creek and papering the cutbank with petals of pink. ROSE PETALS

There was a six-pack of empty Busch Light beer cans littering the park’s parking lot.  Now that the owners of Budweiser are going to rebrand their leading brand,  “America” they’ve creatively named it, maybe they could ramp up their marketing campaign by going to biodegradable containers.  I often find Bud and Busch cans in birding spots.  Also the high caffeine drinks as well.  It seems the requisite IQ for drinking that swill doesn’t encompass an understanding of “litter.”  Nature is seen as just a big trash can, sort of the way the fossil fuel industry sees it.  As an involuntarily well-versed expert on America’s roadside trash I can honestly say I have never found a carelessly thrown container for Anchor Steam, Full Sail Ale or Guinness.  I think there’s a PhD thesis in the brands favored by those folks who like trashing the outdoors.

Deer Creek County Park, Yamhill, Oregon, US
May 15, 2016 11:30 AM – 12:10 PM.  13 species

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  3
Western Wood-Pewee (Contopus sordidulus)  1
Pacific-slope Flycatcher (Empidonax difficilis)  2
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  2
Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)  2
Bewick’s Wren (Thryomanes bewickii)  1
Swainson’s Thrush (Catharus ustulatus)  2
Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)  8
Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)  1
Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia)  1
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  4
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)  1
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  X

Grauer Road, Yamhill, Oregon, US
May 15, 2016 12:20 PM – 12:30 PM

American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  1
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)  4
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)  X
Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina)  1–FOY for county

Muddy Valley Road, Yamhill, Oregon, US
May 15, 2016 12:30 PM – 12:45 PM.  12 species
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)  1
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)  X
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  1
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  3
Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)  2
Common Raven (Corvus corax)  3
Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)  X
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  1
Yellow-breasted Chat (Icteria virens)  1–county lifer
Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina)  1
Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis)  1
Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus)  1

Posted by: atowhee | May 14, 2016


My birding friend Emmalisa Whalley has taken a series of photos of an Acorn Woodpecker (or various woodpeckers) working on a nest hole in the utility pole in Ashland.  See the sawdust fly:acwo-em1 acwo-em2 acwo-em3As communal nesters it is likely that more than one member of the Acorn Woodpecker tribe is working on this hole.  If this hole is used for nesting this year all the females in the tribe will lay eggs in this nest, then each will help with incubation, brooding and feeding.  Don’t tell the Republicans about this communist bird.

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